Hopes Are High For Hemp! 

Hopes Are High For Hemp! 
Posted by FoM on July 25, 1999 at 22:14:39 PT
By Julia Kennedy, Californian staff writer
Source: The Bakersfield Californian
Any place where skateboard clothing, stickers, incense holders and other icons of teen-age culture are sold, it's almost a guarantee that hemp jewelry is nestled among the merchandise.
But for some people, the product is less about marketing to young hipsters and more about advocating a raw material that could be more efficient for the economy and environment. Most people associate hemp with marijuana, but all the items on this table - from bags to wallets to jewelry - are made from hemp and cannot be smoked.People like Mickey Minner of Earthbound Hemp in Bakersfield are trying to educate their customers about the difference between using hemp and smoking marijuana. "I'm not an advocate of smoking marijuana. My thing is hemp for the environment," Minner said. She sells hemp products out of her home, including jewelry, purses,pouches, wallets, lip balm and scrunchies for ponytails.The dictionary definition of hemp includes the buds — or the part that produces illegal marijuana — and the stalk, whose fibers are used to make cloth, rope, even building materials. Hemp seeds also are used for beauty products and foods such as cheese or sweetened snack bars, according to the Hemp Industries Association. The HIA has about 380 members from around the world, most of them from the United States. Hemp growth advocates maintain that "industrial hemp" has negligible content of THC, the mind-altering chemical found in the buds of the plant, because it is bred for a different purpose. The Drug Enforcement Administration allows importation of the seeds and stalk, which don't contain THC. In 1996, the United States imported $5 million in raw industrial hemp and $25 million in finished hemp products, HIA reports. Raw hemp arrives in the form of pulp for paper, straw, or pre-made rolls of hemp cloth. China and Eastern Europe are some of the prime exporters to the United States, said Candi Penn, a member of the HIA board of directors.Manufacturers such as Eastwinds Trading Co. near Grants Pass, Ore. then use this material to make accessories such as bean bags or wallets.Eastwinds has distributed hemp products to Earthbound Hemp and Outer Limits Downtown Skate on Chester Avenue in Bakersfield. Minner said she found her products by scouring a publication for a listing of hemp distributors and ordering from them. Sample prices from Minner include $64 for a sundress; shorts for $40; a hemp backpack for $32.The U.S. hemp industry faces the challenge of having to import all its raw materials. Ivor Gross, domestic manager of Eastwinds, which also sells cotton products, said hemp used to comprise about 70 percent of his sales; now it's about 50 percent.He attributes the decline to survival of the fittest — some smaller hemp purveyors died out in recent years because of increased competition.But he believes hemp shows promise as an industry."It's an extraordinarily versatile cash crop that can be made into almost anything," he said.Advocates say the industry is growing.A 1998 HIA study, surveying 50 companies in the organization, projected sales at $28 million in the United States that year. Association members are encouraged by the fact that major corporations are embracing hemp use in their products. For example, the Body Shop skin care company reports that hemp products comprise 10 percent of its sales volume at 1,500 stores, 300 of them in the United States, according to HIA. The company uses hemp oil for dry skin care.Clothing is the leading product made from hemp in the United States, Penn said, although other products such as paper, personal care, food and nutritional supplements are emerging.There is a Body Shop at Valley Plaza that sells hemp products, as well as a handful of stores that sell hemp jewelry. Clothing sales at two stores have brought mixed results — Outer Limits Downtown Skate owner Joey Witt acknowledged that the hemp clothing is a little more expensive than those made from other materials, as did an employee of Pacific Sunwear, who said high prices made the clothing unpopular. Witt said he sells enough of the product to recover his costs and wants to continue doing so because he approves of the material. "I'm not making any money, but it's just good to promote it," Witt said. His recent inventory included pants, sundresses, backpacks, jewelry and stationery. The clothing and backpacks are now more popular than the jewelry, he said.When he went to clothing shows with hemp salespeople, Witt was impressed with hemp advocates. "I thought they would be a lot of potheads, but they're not. They're Earth lovers," he said.In a pamphlet she wrote using information from hemp product manufacturers, Minner notes that hemp has a shorter growth period than trees and produces more pulp for paper than a comparable number of trees. It also is resistant to insects, so doesn't require pesticides to flourish. Advocates say hemp fiber, a thick, burlap-like material, is stronger than cotton. If washed repeatedly, hemp becomes as soft as cotton, Minner said.If hemp growth were legalized, the HIA would favor expanding the U.S. market to include using hemp for fuel and building needs, Penn said. Companies like BMW have studied the possibility of using hemp for car parts. And some Eastern European countries already manufacture boards made from hemp material, according to an April 1996 report by Cynthia Thielen, a Republican advocate of industrial hemp and assistant minority floor leader for the Hawaii House of Representatives.  "Even if they don't legalize the smoking marijuana, they should at least legalize the hemp part of it," Minner said.But there is a huge debate over whether legalization is practical. Both drug enforcement officials and hemp advocates agree industrial hemp has a lower THC content.But they disagree on whether growers can separate the THC part of the plant from the legal part. Industrial hemp proponents say comparing this kind of hemp to marijuana is like comparing raisins to wine — they both come from grapes, but are completely different products.But to people like Evelyn James, a DEA agent in San Francisco, "hemp is marijuana."The entire plant, James said, is like an apple tree, thinking of apples as the "bud" part that holds THC. If you ground up the entire tree, branches, leaves and all, it still contains apple.The DEA fears it would still be easy to get buds off hemp plants for smokable marijuana — even though those buds might have a lower THC concentration than those cultivated for smoking."If industrial grade hemp is being grown, then they can just go through, snip, snip, snip," James said. Law enforcement would be burdened with proving whether fields of the same plant were being used legally or illegally.But advocates say it doesn't make sense for pot growers to cultivate near industrial hemp. According to Rep. Thielen's report, low-THC male plants for industrial hemp can pollinate with high-THC female plants and dilute the THC content. Hemp used for fiber is also cut before it flowers, the report said, noting that the 4.6 million-member American Farm Bureau Federation has endorsed industrial hemp.People who sell hemp products acknowledge there is a blurring of the lines between hemp culture and pot culture. For instance, Minner has a sticker for sale with a Campbell's soup can that says "Cream of THC" on it. Some hemp Web sites prominently mention THC and advocate smoking. Hemp skin care products sold at the Body Shop attract adults and kids for different reasons, a spokesperson said."I think more of the adults are buying it because it's excellent for dry skin, but the younger group is buying it because this is cool, it's got the hemp leaf on it," said Kim Waggoner, 30, manager of The Body Shop in Valley Plaza. By JULIA KENNEDYCalifornian staff writere-mail: jkennedy Pubdate July 24, 1999© 1999, The Bakersfield Californian 
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Comment #1 posted by Derek on March 08, 2001 at 17:19:05 PT:
I think that weed should be legal, for smoking and for hemp uses! I say HELL Yeah to legalization!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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